Since its third installment A Link to the Past, Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series has had a fine variety of memorable female characters.
My personal favourite from among this varied cast hails from the fourth game in the series, Link’s Awakening. This is one of my most fondly regarded installments for numerous reasons, including its divergence from the “traditional” Zelda narrative formula, its solid gameplay and the sheer technical feat of squeezing such a sprawling, consistently well-designed game onto the Game Boy.
But for all these good points, when I think of Link’s Awakening, my mind always goes to one place before anything else. And that place is sitting on a log overlooking the ocean, sitting next to Marin and wondering if there’s something between us.
Fanart by unknown artist; via Danbooru
The Zelda series has interesting lore, but its actual storytelling has been somewhat variable over the years. This isn’t necessarily anything to be particularly ashamed of, mind — the series as a whole, much like many Nintendo properties, has always taken a “gameplay first” approach before being subsequently expanded on with as much narrative as was practical (and fun) for its host platform at the time.
One thing that particularly attracted me to Link’s Awakening was the fact that it felt like a bit more effort had been expended on the personality of the game world and the characters that inhabited it than even A Link to the Past. Koholint Island was a strange and wonderful place, for sure, but after a while it started to feel oddly like home as you familiarised yourself with its layout and started to understand the people who lived there.
Marin was a big part of that, at least partly due to the fact that she was the first character you met in the game. Rescuing a shipwrecked Link from the shores of the island, it’s clear from the outset that she’s a very kind, caring person, and this always comes across in any dialogue sequences you have with her.
Fanart by Shiwashiwa no Kinchakubukuru; via Danbooru
There’s also an implied romantic attraction between Marin and Link — and since Link, as a mute protagonist, is often interpreted as a self-insert for the player (particularly since you can rename him before beginning a new game) this can feel like a very personal connection between the player and this delightful young woman.
Marin has some depth as a character if you know what to look for, too; while it’s easy to write her off as a fairly generic “nice girl”, your behaviour throughout Link’s Awakening can affect the way she responds to you. She will initially tell Link off for causing trouble by breaking pots and hitting Cuccos, for example — both mainstays of player behaviour in Zelda games by this point — but persistently doing these things will seemingly cause her to develop a bit of a naughty side and start to encourage you to continue. This aspect of her personality is actually given a throwaway shoutout as part of her appearance in Hyrule Warriors — defeat a large number of enemies and she will get a little more overexcited than you might expect from such a “nice” girl.
There’s more, though; Link initially mistakes Marin for Princess Zelda at the outset of Link’s Awakening, though Zelda is actually nowhere to be seen throughout that game, for reasons that become obvious as you progress through the plot. Interestingly, Hyrule Warriors also references this through the fact that Marin doesn’t drop any of her own unique loot if you defeat her in combat; she instead drops the same items that Zelda does.
Fanart by Hounori; via Danbooru
And on top of that, there are obvious ties between Marin and a character in Ocarina of Time named Malon. Besides the similarities in their names (and those of their fathers — Tarin and Talon respectively) there are other similarities, too. Both are redheads, both are accomplished songstresses, and both live a rather “rural” lifestyle, with Koholint Island lacking any real built-up civilised areas in Marin’s case, and Malon living on a farm. Indeed, Ocarina of Time’s script director Toru Osawa noted that this resemblance was entirely deliberate in an interview published around the time of the N64 game’s original release.
Marin even had a subtle influence on the design of Link’s sister Aryll in The Wind Waker. Both share a particular affinity for seagulls — Marin’s image is even shown fading into a seagull in the “secret” ending for Link’s Awakening you get if you complete the game without dying — and the flower Marin wears in her hair is used as the basis for the design of the dress that Aryll wears. Some rough parallels can also be drawn between the pair’s signature outfits — both wear a one-piece dress with sandals, though Marin’s is a plain blue while Aryll’s is decorated with flowers. Series producer Eiji Aonuma even noted that Aryll was originally set to be called “Mariru” (or perhaps “Maryll”, since Aryll’s name was “Ariru” in the original Japanese) as a callback to both Marin and Malon.
Fanart by Borhys (Noborhys) (Pixiv)
For all the influence Marin had on subsequent characters in the series, though, the original and best left an indelible mark on my heart the first time I met her in the original Game Boy version of Link’s Awakening, branded me even more deeply when I “met” her again in colour rerelease Link’s Awakening DX… and as for her delightful realisation in Hyrule Warriors? Well, I’m very much in love. There’s nothing quite like smashing baddies over the head with a jingly bell, then throwing a giant imaginary fish at them.
Also, hey, Link’s Awakening is 25 years old today. Go play it if you haven’t already; for me, it’s a real high point for the series. And not just for Marin. Just… mostly for Marin.
More about Hyrule Warriors
If you were responsible for one of the pieces of artwork I only have a Danbooru link for and would like crediting, let me know — these pieces were from a few years back and thus now seem to have bad Pixiv IDs or other source information.
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